Pazars (Marketplace): The Transformation of Public Spaces + their Tectonic Structures
Pazars are an historic urban archetype in the region ‘set-up’ weekly from village to village and daily from neighborhood to neighborhood in major cities. They remain a primary source for local residents to get seasonal vegetables, fruit, dairy products, grains and simple household items. Istanbul’s pazars are still a vital part of the agricultural-grocer economy whose structures and use of public space has remained unchanged over the centuries. Although seemingly an informal network of places, structures and merchants, pazars are in fact formalized with yearly rental fees, established locations, and merchants who do business in five different locations a week. Intensifying the open-space infrastructure of Istanbul, they set-up in streets, open parking lots, watersheds, but also occasionally establish permanent structures. Residents of neighborhoods know the day and location of their local pazar, as well as the time-honored specialty pazars (fish, organic, clothing, imported goods, etc.) dispersed throughout the city, typically in permanent locations operating seven days a week.
The focus of the pazar here is on the transformation of open-space infrastructure to vibrant public spaces and the tectonic impermanence of their structures. What makes Pazars unique from other world farmer’s markets is that they remain a primary supplier of perishable goods for the diverse social cross-sections of Istanbul’s society. Furthermore, herein lies an incredible collaboration between merchants to come directly to each neighborhood and create a comprehensive covered structure that keeps the sun, rain and snow off the goods and shoppers.
Two municipal districts in Istanbul were observed to reveal urban spatial patterns and neighborhood zones, the pre-twentieth century Fatih and the post-twentieth century Beşiktaş, both on the European side. Both Municipalities host two pazars on Monday and Tuesdays which range in size from small (20-100 merchants) to mega (over 1000 merchants). The mega pazar is the only pazar located in a place designed for public use, Fatih Kuliye (an Ottoman civic complex); this is unique as pazars typically only occupy Istanbul’s urban open-space infrastructure and rarely consume public-spaces like parks, squares, plazas or pedestrian streets. It is also important to note that some weekly pazars in the 20th century had nestled into their locations for daily business with more permanent structures (steel frames with nylon tarps that could be locked). But in the past year in Beşiktaş, the city has begun to removed these merchants and transformed those sites into plazas.
Pazar’s are open for business year round with sophisticated, yet simple, means to create a ‘shared canopy’ -- a whole -- to cope with Istanbul’s four distinct seasons. The shared canopy is made from three basic parts: tarps, ropes and poles (Figure 1, diagram of whole + parts). These parts are brought and owned individually by the vendors (tables are rented on-site as part of their annual rental fee fixed throughout the municipalities). The ropes create a hybrid tension and kinetic structure. The tension structural system connects to buildings, vertical structures (trees, telephone poles, fences), and merchant tables, while the kinetic dimension of the system uses poles in friction with asphalt, concrete, dirt, and rocks (Figure 2, aisle).. Weights are also used to hold their position against the forces of the tensioned tarps – and I think also used to keep people from tripping over the poles in the middle of the aisles. In creating this structure, merchants borrow rope line space, canopy space, connection points and context to create the elaborate web of the structure. The merchants take great pride in their ropes and tarps placing a great value on their quality and maintenance. Both natural materials and synthetic materials are used for the ropes and tarps, while the poles are almost always made from simple steel tube (Figure 3, shared canopy). Poles are also used on rainy days to poke at the tarps to drain the puddles collecting on their horizontal surfaces. The tarps let light through, shade against harsh sun, and protect all from the rain and snow – hence different tarps are used during different seasons.
The importance of the pazar’s endurance as a common urban archetype in the fabric of Istanbul is in its intensification of existing open-space resources, its impromptu collaborative structures, and the rhythmic, yet ephemeral, animation of urban neighborhood’s public space. Everything that is used to create the ‘market-place’ for a day comes and then goes only for the duration of purpose. It generates value for the city in social public-space, income, and access to affordable goods for the residents. It makes no pretension to exclude different social class nor become permanent. Its structures are simple and timeless, yet use sophisticated structural forces we are only now beginning to understand in the design of permanent structures. And, although there is no sign posting, flyers, or advertisement, it relies on social networks and neighborhood word-of-mouth to learn the locations, best vendors, and the day of the event. The pazar has not lost its relevance in the contemporary fabric of Istanbul and its minimalism delights our imaginations for other means to transform the existing open-space infrastructure into theatrical public-space. (in Turkish Pazar means both marketplace and Sunday)